Tuesday, December 5, 2006
California Tax Authorities Defy Legislature and Revive ReadyReturn Program; Joe Bankman Spends $30k to Help, Putting Kitchen Remodel on Hold
Interesting article in today's L.A. Times about how California's tax authorities have resurrected the ReadyReturn pilot program in defiance of the state legislature: Defying Legislators, Officials Revive Tax Return Program; Officials Expand ReadyReturn, in Which Government Calculates What Taxpayers Owe; The Legislature, Lobbied by Intuit, Had Let It Die, by Evan Halper:
State tax authorities defied lawmakers Monday by reviving ReadyReturn, a program that allows some taxpayers to have the state do their returns for them, and expanding it from a tiny pilot project to a service for 1 million Californians. The move was engineered by outgoing Controller Steve Westly and his successor, John Chiang, both champions of the program. Intuit, the Silicon Valley manufacturer of TurboTax, spent $1 million trying to defeat Chiang on Nov. 7 and stop the program.
ReadyReturn is designed to ease the burden of filers with the simplest returns: single taxpayers with one employer and no complicated deductions. Despite rave reviews by most of the 11,000 taxpayers who used it last year, the Legislature over the summer yielded to an intense lobbying campaign by Intuit and let the program die.
But Chiang, Westly and Department of Finance Director Mike Genest, who make up the state's Franchise Tax Board, made the move after receiving legal opinions from legislative and tax board staff suggesting that they have the authority to implement the program on their own. Chiang has a seat on the tax board by virtue of his leadership of another tax panel, the state Board of Equalization....
Stanford University law professor Joseph Bankman, who worked with the tax board to create the program, grew so discouraged when Intuit's lobbyists were able to derail it in the Legislature that Bankman hired a lobbyist of his own to try bring it back to life. He used the $30,000 his family had set aside for a kitchen remodeling to pay the bill. After Monday's vote, Bankman said: "I'm thrilled."
Kudos to Joe for putting his money where his mouth is. (By the way, is there any way Joe can deduct the $30k?)